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Enchanted Winter Garden prices are frozen for Antrim and Newtownabbey residents

A two-tier pricing system will apply for admission to a flagship festive event  held by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

The cost of admission to the Enchanted Winter Garden at Antrim Castle Gardens will be frozen for residents but will be increased for visitors from elsewhere.

An increase to £7.50 per adult and £5 per child from £6 and £4 respectively has been approved for visitors who live outside the borough.

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Last year,  the event attracted 118,748 visitors with almost 87 per cent travelling from outside the borough. It cost more than £0.5m to hold but made a profit of more than £140,000.

Antrim Castle Gardens

Councillors were told at a meeting of the borough council on Monday evening that officers are considering a number of ways to “ensure residents can avail of a ticket price freeze and book at the 2021 rate”.

Selected residents will be invited and/or nominated to attend an opening event free of charge in association with the borough’s community and voluntary sector.

Seconding a proposal by Ballyclare Ulster Unionist Councillor Vera McWilliam to accept the officer’s recommendations, party colleague Antrim Cllr Jim Montgomery said: “The officers have recognised the concerns of members previously about cost for residents of the borough.

“To keep ahead of the game we are going to have to keep ahead and expand with the success of the Gardens.”

Antrim SDLP Cllr Roisin Lynch welcomed the decision to keep prices lower for residents and for the council to work with the community and voluntary sector to give more people a chance to visit the Christmas event.

Admission to the Enchanted Winter Garden, which was first held in 2013,  was free of charge for the first four years before a charge of £2 for adults and £1 for children was  introduced.

Officers have suggested expanding the event area into a field space and include additional lighting installations and attraction. This expansion plan is expected to increase the cost of delivering the event by approximately £100,000.

Councillors were told at a meeting behind closed doors earlier this year that profits from the high profile event during the next five years are required to help cover the cost of the newly-created Clockwork Garden feature by celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin at Antrim Castle Gardens.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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£140k profit from Antrim and Newtownabbey Council’s Enchanted Winter Garden